Tennessee Supreme Court kicks Robby Starbuck off the ballot for second time

Robby Starbuck, the candidate vying for Tennesse’s 5th Congressional District, has been taken back off of the ballot.

The Washington Examiner reports that the Supreme Court of Tennessee has ruled that the lower court made a mistake by granting an injunction that could have resulted in Starbuck being put back on the ballot. 


In April, the Tennessee Republican Party removed three candidates from the party’s 5th Congressional District primary ballot. Those three candidates are Starbuck, Morgan Ortagus, and Baxter Lee.

The reason the state party removed these candidates from the primary ballot is that they did not meet its bonafide Republican requirements.

This decision led to the ensuing legal battle. The battle has to do with the state’s open meetings act, specifically whether the Tennesse Republican Party had to have its meetings, regarding the removal of Starbuck from the ballot, open to the public.

As the Tennessean reports, “under state law, a party’s executive committee, when acting as a state primary board, is subject to the open meetings act.”

Two rulings

Initially, the Davidson County Chancery Court ruled in Starbuck’s favor. The judge ruled that the Tennessee Republican Party violated the open meetings act by not making the meeting during which it decided to remove Starbuck from the ballot open to the public.

What the court did not make clear, though, was whether or not Starbuck had to be put back on the ballot. This led the Tennessee secretary of state to ask the state’s Supreme Court.

In response, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision, ruling that it erred in its reasoning. According to the state supreme court, it all has to do with whether the Tennessee Republican Party is acting as an executive committee or as a state primary board. The latter is subject to the open meetings act, whereas the former isn’t.

In other words, since the state party was acting as an executive committee when it took Starbuck off the ballot, it did not have to adhere to the open meetings act. So, its removal of Starbuck without a public meeting is allowed.

Looking forward

It remains to be seen whether any further legal action will follow. But, for now, it appears that Starbuck is back off the ballot.

The primary ballot, without Starbuck, will be held on Aug. 4. Early voting will start on July 15.

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